Published:  12:59 AM, 09 June 2019

China's Xi praises 'best friend' Putin during Russia visit

China's Xi praises 'best friend' Putin during Russia visit Xi Jinping said he had a "deep personal friendship" with Vladimir Putin. -AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping has described Russia's Vladimir Putin as his "best friend" during a three-day visit to Moscow focusing on trade and relations between the two countries. The visit comes as China-US relations have soured over a bitter trade war.

Russia had decided on a pivot to the east years ago after ties worsened with the West over the Ukraine conflict. The two sides have signed a package of trade deals and Xi also unveiled two pandas for the Moscow Zoo. The Chinese president arrived on Wednesday and later gave a press conference where he said he had a "deep personal friendship" with his Russian counterpart. "In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times.

Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague," Xi said. Putin echoed the praise saying he was "pleased to say that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level. It is a global partnership and strategic cooperation."

The alliance between the two countries has intensified since both Moscow and Beijing feel alienated by Europe and especially the US. Moscow's relationship with the West turned sour when Russia was put under sanctions for its involvement in the Ukraine conflict five years ago. It has also been criticized for assisting the Assad regime in Syria in 2015.

China's ties with the US have deteriorated since the Trump administration appeared to turn its back on globalization in favor of economic national protectionism. The two countries are currently embroiled in a trade war and tit-for-tat tariffs that intensive talks have so far failed to resolve.

With a shared sense of rejection from the West, Russia and China have hence moved closer together, both in economic and military cooperation, observers say. The partnership has already seen an increase in trade, which grew by 25% in 2018 to hit a record $108bn (£85bn) according to the Kremlin.During Xi's visit to Moscow, the two sides have promised to deepen military and economic cooperation in the future.

---BBC

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